RTÉ mulls exit from DVD sales after market collapse

‘Difficult year’ for merchandise as viewers move from owning to streaming content

RTÉ may stop selling DVDs of its programmes after a faster-than-expected collapse in the market for physical entertainment products.

The State broadcaster’s group commercial director Willie O’Reilly said RTÉ’s merchandising business could shut down by the end of 2017.

“The whole distribution business has been really difficult this year, and frankly I see us exiting that business within six months,” he said.

Mr O’Reilly cited the liquidation of Xtra Vision in early 2016 as a blow for the DVD and CD market, with the move leading to the shuttering of 72 stores in the Republic and 11 in Northern Ireland.


“The market has moved on, probably faster than any of us predicted,” Mr O’Reilly said.

"In the UK, there are still good distribution channels. You can go and buy a CD or come across one, whereas in Ireland now you really have Tower in Dublin and about a dozen Golden Discs, and after that it is Lidl, Aldi and Tesco."

While the DVD market has been in decline since 2007, RTÉ scored a relative hit with Love/Hate as late as 2014. DVDs of its programmes are on sale through e-commerce sites such as Amazon and the broadcaster's website currently redirects browsers seeking DVD and CDs to entertainment site eBuzz.ie.

However, there is “just not enough business” in selling physical products online either, Mr O’Reilly said.

The BBC's decision to close the BBC Store, a digital download service that offered programmes on a buy-and-keep basis, was "astounding", he said. The move, announced last month, came just 18 months after it was launched.

“I thank god that we didn’t invest heavily in that area. The theory was that the public would move to buying programmes for downloading onto their laptops or iPads. It was a kind of iTunes for video content.”

However, the BBC Store was unable to compete with the subscription streaming model popularised by Netflix and Amazon Video.

“Broadcasters can stream their shows somewhere else, but nobody is buying them,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“You make something, you broadcast it on a linear television channel, then you show it on the catch-up Player, then you sell it to Netflix. It’s the funnel system. But when you get to actually selling the show itself, there’s nobody left at the end of the funnel.”

The trend suggests that audiences may find it frustrating if they want to keep permanent hold of particular titles.

“It is going to be difficult to own certain things in the future, because you may be only able to rent them.”

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Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics